Donkey Controversy

dinky krgg

Walter Day, head of Twin Galaxies, has posted a series of objections to the film King of Kong. Key among them is that Steve Wiebe held the official Donkey Kong World Record for three years, including most of the period covered in the film. According to Day:

Essentially, on June 30, 2003, Steve Wiebe scored 947,200 points on Donkey Kong. His score was submitted to Twin Galaxies and accepted with honors.

If this is true, then Wiebe’s dramatically overturned high scores would have in fact reverted back to his own world record, a central premise of the film would totally false, and much of the alleged drama in the film would be a manipulative hoax. Documentary filmmaker Jason Scott strongly agreed with this assertion: “I just want the message clear: I hate that movie.”

Scandalous!

But when Walter Day says that Twin Galaxies “essentially” accepted Steve Wiebe’s score as a World Record, it would seem that what he actually means is “they absolutely did not accept them as a World Record.”

Robert Mruczek, the referee of Twin Galaxies, told Steve Wiebe in a post on Nov 10, 2004 that his 947,200 score had been “reclassified” and none of his other videotaped scores would be accepted as records.

And in a FunSpot forum thread in 2003 (with Walter Day himself chiming in) Mruczek also said that Wiebe’s score was “split” from the world record for “purity’s sake.” He also says that Billy Mitchell — the guy who’s record was at stake — was one of the people who made this decision for Twin Galaxies.

This thread discussing the disqualification of Wiebe’s score from July 2003 looks like the same thread which was shown in King of Kong. It becomes the basis of Wiebe’s frustration with Twin Galaxies and the initial premise of the film.

So are all of these posts fake? Or is Walter Day flat out lying about Weibe’s 943 day world record?

Right now it looks like a group of people who take their verification process very very seriously gave one set of facts in 2003 — Wiebe’s score was not the official world record. Then a few years later when a documentary quotes them and distributes their assertions internationally, they ignore their prior verification process and publicly attack the documentary.

Who held what score in what year on exactly which chipset is surely among the most minor fragments of history. The more critical issue at stake is how history gets documented. If this entertaining and widely admired film is based on a lie, it should be clearly noted so that fact-based documentarians do not use it as a model.

But if Twin Galaxies is now attacking the film on a false premise, it would suggest that they are sycophantically willing to shift facts and their own rules to match the context. Which is, coincidentally, kind of how they were portrayed in the film which they are now attacking.

Investigations into this matter are active and ongoing

update:
So much for the investigation…

why not another update:
Arcade-related controversy in a documentary, people get a face punching. But Wikipedia-related controversy in a documentary

Update to End All Updates:
Donkey Kong Timeline at Superbunker. A futile attempt to compile the definitive historical chronology of a single video game score through the maze of conflicting accounts.

23 thoughts on “Donkey Controversy”

  1. Hello fellow gamers:

    My name is Robert T Mruczek and I am the former chief referee for Twin Galaxies from Apr/01-Aug/05 and then senior referee (a voluntary role reduction due to my real job’s responsibilities) from Aug/05-Dec/06.

    I was the referee who received all of Steve Wiebe’s performances during this period. And I have a few things to say regarding the Zota article I have just read about the DK controvrsy.

    When Steve Wiebe’s first submission of 947K was accepted, at the time Twin Galaxies had no idea that a multi-game boardset known as “Double Donkey Kong” existed. We did not know until after Steve sent in his 1.006M submission shortly after Jul02/04.

    The initial reaction when determined had several repurcussions…

    1st – the knowledge that the earlier 947K score was also done on a DDK boardset
    2nd – the likelihood that his May29/04 submission of 985K was also done on this boardset
    3rd – the possibility that his 999.5K Jun29/04 and 1.006M Jul02/04 performances were as well
    4th – the related possibility that his earliest submission on “Donkey Kong Junior” was also accomplished on this boardset

    Internally the refeees tok a very long time to make two key decisions, as it was the TG policy to only accept scores on the original boardsets amd not clones of “multi-game kits”.

    Decision (1) – does Twin Galaxoes retain Steve’s perfmances under a newly opened category called “Double Donkey Kong” for each title, or
    Decision (2) – does TG reject all performances submitted to date by Steve Wiebe and insist that he play “live” ?

    A third option was determined, at my own suggestion. Between late July and November of 2004, I publicly posted on the old Funspot forum an offer to STeve that I would personally fly out to his home at my own expense and bring with me a TG-authenticated boardset with which to give to him as a gift to keep, and would stay all day to watch him attempt to play DK in my presence, where no taping was needed. Such was my authority as chief referee, to authenticate by visual alone, at my discretion, in special situations.

    Steve never accepted the offer, and the controversy continued. He later submitted approx Aug29/06 a 1.049M submission which is the core of the ending of the new “Kong of Kong” film. But this film fails to mention what Steve did in the taping of this performance.

    Steve started the tape by focusing in on the boardset which he held in his hands and how he inserted it into the machine, and then after the boardset was inserted there was a complete break in the tape as the camera was next focused on the gamescreen with a credit already inserted and he started his game. When it ended, Steve focused the camera on the top left of the game screen, went around the back to open the game pabel back door and THEN walked the camera around to the back, so from a referee-perspective you could not determine whether the boardset in the machine at that moment was the same as what was inserted at the beginning, or during the commission of the performance for that matter.

    The reality is that someone named Tim Sczerby was the real DK champion and not Bill Mitchell during much of this time period. Bill’s score was approx 874K, Tim was over 900K, and Steve’s original performance of 947K, which TG was still “mulling” over how to classify, was in fact the stated 1st place score for a lengthy period of time.

    Thank you for your time.

    Robert T Mruczek
    Former Twin Galaxies Chief Referee

  2. Thank you for your response Robert. I appreciate you contributing your perspective.

    I have to note that some of what you’re saying here conflicts with what Walter Day posted
    He lists Billy Mitchell as the score below Steve Weibe, with Sczerby third.

    Day also points out that Weibe’s score was publicly re-categorized in 2004. You yourself announced that the score would be re-categorized in 2003. Don’t these multiple denouncements of the score conflict with the assertion the Weibe held the undisputed world record for three years?

  3. Hi:

    Walter wrote the “definitive statements” on “King of Kong” over the past several months addressing the key facts.

    http://www.twingalaxies.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=86

    The above link should take you to the master list of several threads each of which details a specific issue’s counterpoint from within the film. Issues 1 and 2 in particular address the scoring. Issue 1 supports my assessment that Tim Szcerby and not Bill Mitchell was the true record holder when Steve Wiebe sent in his tape in 2004, by the way.

    As you will see from reading these threads, Walter addresses the scores but not the “reclassifications” which largely were taking place behind the scenes with the referees. We (the referees) were debating whether to retain Steve’s scores or reclassify them into a separate category.

    There were three positions within the referee-based…(1) those who felt that the score should be preserved albeit reclassified to a separate category specific to the DDK ROMset, (2) those who felt the scores should be “co-mingled” due to the possible minor variances within that boardset as compared to the original, and finally (3) those who believe that the scores should be stripped completely under the premise that the gamer knowingly and willfully cheated by submitting scores on an unauthorized ROMset.

    As “chief referee” during that era I had to be fair to the game in question as well as being fair to every other gamer who submitted scores past and present, and also realized that we were in a possible precedent-determining situation, so I took no specific action with relisting Steve’s scores and for the longest time they stayed as they were, co-mingled, until a definitive refereee decision could be made.

    I should note that as TG’s CEO and Founder, Walter had the right to make the final decision but had not done so until much later in late 2006 when he announced somewhere on the TG forums, publicly, that TG would recognize Steve’s achievements as done under the DDK ROMset until such a time comes when Steve may break those records on the authentic ROMset, and at which time the DDK scores and score categories would be deleted permanently. He also said that the score categories for DDK on both DK and DKJr were closed to all other submitters.

    This was the middle road to take, and while not every referee necessarily agrees with the decision, it was the path that he adopted for TG on the matter.

    So the score itself as Walter indicated in his issue 1 or 2 thread above did stay for 943 days, but it was later regarded in 2006 as a “DDK” score in a different category, also as per Walter.

    I was not aware that Walter mentioned somewhere that the score was re-categorized in 2004…we never, ever opened on the TG database the separate category until 2006, and on the forums, and I can back myself up here, the scores remained “as is” during all of 2004 even when, after the 1.006M was submitted, the debate was on about how to track the scores from Steve.

    I should note that in June of 2005, when Steve hit 985,600 live at Funspot, that score passed his previously taped 947K definitively and thus became the new world record without dispute at that time. The 1.006M by Steve on tape which was stil under dispute as being possibly a DDK submission, as well as a previously taped but submitted 1.014M by Bill Mitchell submitted approx Jul-Aug/04, also never made it into Walter’s issue 1 and 2 threads…that should be mentioned as well.

    Wiebe’s 947K score was never formally reclassified by the time Steve broke it live in 2005. Bill Mitchell submitted in tape a 1.047M score at Funspot 2005 which was not formally and definitively approved by TG until approx Jan/06. This supports Walter’s assessment that Steve was the scoreboard champion from the time of his 947K score thru the Jan/06 period.

    Inbetween that time, two things also never happened…(1) the 947K was never reclassified and (2) Bill Mitchell’s earlier taped submission of 1.014M from 2004 was never recognized by TG formally on the scoreboard as it was never formally submitted to TG for consideration.

    All the while Steve’s 947K score was recignized as the top score until Jun/05, it was never formally reclassified. When Walter announced at some point in 2006 that the DDK scores would be separated, this no longer applied to the 947K score since Steve had since beaten that live, but it did now apply to his other submitted score of 1.006M from Jul/04 which was in dispute.

    I can respond to any questions that you may have based on my personal recollections amd knowledge of the matter at hand. I should stress that I am no longer a TG official so do not speak on their behalf. Walter Day who can be reached at “Walter@TwinGalaxies.com” or at the TG main number of (641) 472-1949 can speak on TG’s behalf.

    Thanks again for your response and interest in the matter. I must admit to finding it of personal interest to keep myself immersed in these issues ever since I quit the organization…I enjoy sharing my former experiences with the gaming world. TG was overall a fun experience for most of the 5-1/2 years that I was working there as an unpaid volunteer, so in my own spare time I help out when I can on forum issues.

    Robert

  4. Robert,

    You say that the re-classification of Weibe’s world record was taking place “behind the scenes.” But in the Fall of 2003, didn’t you publicly announce that the score was reclassified in the same FunSpot thread where the score was announced? And you publicly declared the score re-classified in this Twin Galaxies thread from 2004

    I don’t dispute hard work you’ve done in refereeing scores for Twin Galaxies. But on this issue — did Steve Weibe have the official undisputed Donkey Kong world record based on his score from July 2003 — the answer is no. His score was publicly question in multiple forums, and you announced that it was in a different category in the Fall of 2003.

    I understand your reasons for publicly disputing Weibe’s score — the “purity” of the world record based on the board. But Weibe’s score was not the undisputed Donkey Kong world record, and Walter Day’s recent post on this issue is very misleading on this issue.

  5. Hi again:

    Thanks for the link…I read it and on page 1 here are the two (2) key points provided in quotes…

    -> “The score was to be reclassified, at the time. And as DKJr was also believed to be conversion, the same position was taken on that title. Again, this was the initial decision, and no action was taken since as the matter is still under discussion.”

    -> “On or about January of this year, I received a call from you regarding the DK score and potential reclass. We discussed the TG position on the double DK kit. You had then expressed interest in seeking out a classic DK set to make it right, and that’s where we left off.”

    This pretty much states my intent…I said in that thread that the score WAS to be reclassed, and then later that no action was taken as the matter was still in discussion. This supports my earlier reply on the Zota forum above.

    In short, while Steve’s score was definitely in dispute, I did not have the authorization from Walter Day to formally take it down, so in actuality as far as the formal scoreboard goes, it was indeed the recognized (though disputed) record.

    I am in all fairness forwarding the link to your own forum’s thread, this developing discussion, to a knowledgeable former colleague who can ascertain if I myself made any misleading or innaccurate statements thus far in my replies here. Truth be told, a lot happened on the subject matter over the past near-five years so if I did say anything that was innaccurate, my sincere apologies.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply again.

    Oh yes, one more thing…that very link that you mentioned in your last reply on my statements from 2004, it can be seen here that I did in fact offer to Steve a chance to come out in 2004 at my own expense, an aspect of the ongoing matter that was completely left out of KoK. I should mention that to date I have never made such an offer to any other gamer, nor has any other TG referee offered to do same…travel across the country at their own personal expense for a verification. Walter Day may have done so many years back, but as TG was a company he could have stated these as travel deductions whereas I was fully prepared to absorb the cost 100% on my own.

    Will write back again after I’ve had my statements cross-checked by a former colleague for accuracy. In all fairness that needs to be done at this point, I believe. And I will share his findings upon receipt.

    Robert

  6. Hi again:

    My former colleafue from Twin Galaxies, at my request, has read this thread and offered his opinions. My reason for asking him, again, was to cross-check my statements for accuracy. With a five year span of information, I may very well have clouded the date of when a particular action occurred. This respondant offers his own recollection to counter and/or support my own. Between the two, you can assess which of my statements was accurate, and which I may have had the date wrong on. The choice is entirely yours.

    The respondant is Greg Erway, a technical advisor for Twin Galaxies. Greg like myself is familiar with the ongoing saga and now shares some of his thoughts based on this thread. I should add that Greg is a well respected member of the general gaming community and you will be hard pressed to find any negative comment about Greg on any forum. I also have his permission to post this and reference him by name. Here goes…

    Robert,

    I’ve read the forum and my recollection does somewhat agree with the poster. However, I might be remembering wrong also for this reason. You posted that forum thread at Funpots forums reguarding reclassification of Steve’s score to a new DDK category. I seem to remember that the 947k “was” suppose to be reclassified. I don’t remember if I “know this” because I read it in the forum or due to personal conversations I had with you on the subject. But I was definately under the impression that the 947k score was the one that should have been reclassified. I was one of the people concerned about mixing the score with the others and was a big supporter of moving it to a new category. I do admit however that I assumed it was moved and never really took the time to check if it was moved or not. So while I thought it was moved, it very well might not have been. This seems to support what you say about the new category not being opened until 2006.

    I do remember a discussion about the DKJr. score being reclassified too and that a decision was made (not sure who the group was that made the decision but I was not part of it) to not reclassify the DK Jr. score. The fact is, Double Donkey Kong is made out of an original DK Jr. boardset. There is a higher likelyhood of differences between DK Jr. on a unmodified board and a DDK board due to that fact. As much has been claimed for DK on a DK board and DK on a DDK board however I believe someone determined there was different timing in reguards to the timer (and how long you can live at 000 before a death). I personally would have preferred both scores be moved to a new DDK category until beaten and do not believe even the DK Jr. game should have been classified in the regular DK Jr. category.

    So in a sense, I do believe this guy is right because that was what I believed all those years. In hindsight I wish I had investigated to make sure the score was moved. But you’ll also remember that all of this fell
    during a time when the website did not allow additions of new tracks. This was during the initial time that Brien was “unavailable”. You were falling desperatly behind in score entries and don’t believe you had the capacity to open the new category at that time. I believe you likely “put it off” until you got caught up and then just likely never did it. The likely Walter realized it was never done and did the work in 2006. At least this is a guess.

    Greg

  7. Hi again:

    I just culled the following excerpt from Walter Day’s own post at the following thread below…

    http://www.twingalaxies.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=10930&sid=3d811bbefbb66de743ce1fb7c1ab322a

    WD – “And, in November, 2004, it was publicly stated that Steve’s score would be re-categorized due to the presumption that he played on a “Double-Donkey-Kong” board. However, Twin Galaxies continued to evaluate that decision, but that decision was never put into effect.”

    These are Walter’s own words which seem to support my own recollection about the re-classification of the scores…that they were announced but never enacted.

    I admit that my own recollection spans five years of interraction on the issue but was sure that I remembered never having done the actual reclass until much later. This would certainly seem to support that recollection.

    Robert

  8. Sorry for the typos and grammer errors. I wasn’t expecting the message to be posted when I wrote it. But I’ve never had anything to hide and gave Robert permission to post it when he asked.

    Once posted I re-read what I wrote and realized I made an error trying to convey what I was thinking.

    I believe playing DK Jr. on a DDK board is more likely to play just like a normal DK Jr. boardset than playing DK on a DDK board. This is because DDK is made out of a DK Jr. boardset to start with. An example of differences is that the sounds are mapped differently. The sound alone does not cause any gameplay differences in behaviour. However it was believe at the time that the timing of the level timer was slightly longer than on a regular DK board and that created potential for extra points. Steve brought much attention to TG with his score being reported on CNN before it was realized he used a DDK board. In fairness to Steve it was decided to not just throw out his score but simply move it to a new DDK category until such time as he was able to beat the score (and then the DDK category could be removed). I felt this was fair and supported the idea.

  9. Thank you Gregory and Robert for these additional clarifications.

    Let me make sure I understand correctly:

    In spite of the press immediately following the announcement of his score, Steve Weibe did not officially hold the Donkey Kong world record based on his score from July 2003. Rather, he held the only officially recorded score in a newly created Double Donkey Kong category.

    This fact was publicly announced in 2003 and 2004, and Weibe was notified of this via email, phone, and public posts in discussion forums. Weibe’s continued listing as the Donkey Kong world record holder after this decision was announced was an oversight, which Twin Galaxies corrected in 2006.

    Is that accurate?

  10. Hi again:

    I could have sworn that I posted successfully again on this thread the other evening…looks like maybe not, so I will re-state as best as I can.

    As Greg Erway states, and as Walter himself did, the initial idea was to split the category but it actually was not formally done on the database until much later. So as far as the database went, Steve’s 947K was the top score from the initial 2003 submission until May/Jun 2005 when Steve hit 985K live. Afterwards, the 1.006M was reclassified to the DDK category at some point in I believe 2006.

    And yes, he is the only DDK champion as no other DDK score shall be accepted according to Walter. If and when Steve passes 1.006M on the original, Walter was planning to update the 985K live score and simultaneously eliminate the DDK category.

    Let’s hope this reply stays…I hope so as I may have replied last time and was too tired to complete the submission correctly !!

    Robert

  11. I know that we’ve beaten this over the head on my blog, but I’m curious why in the face of what Robert T Mruczek said above that you think the statement “Steve Weibe held the Donkey Kong record for three years” is false.

    A couple comments above you asked if your statement that

    In spite of the press immediately following the announcement of his score, Steve Weibe did not officially hold the Donkey Kong world record based on his score from July 2003. Rather, he held the only officially recorded score in a newly created Double Donkey Kong category.

    To which Robert T Mruczek

    As Greg Erway states, and as Walter himself did, the initial idea was to split the category but it actually was not formally done on the database until much later. So as far as the database went, Steve’s 947K was the top score from the initial 2003 submission until May/Jun 2005 when Steve hit 985K live. Afterwards, the 1.006M was reclassified to the DDK category at some point in I believe 2006.

    My reading of that is that since Steve Weibe had the Donkey Kong record of 947K from 2003 until he had the Dong Kong Record of 985K from May/Jun 2005 until he had the DOUBLE Donkey Kong in 2006, that he had the Donkey Kong record from 2003 through 2006. At which point the ruling was made that he had instead the DDK record.

    I don’t mean to be combative but this is why I said you have poor reading comprehension. Do you mean that there’s another sense of holding the record other than being in the official database? I really am just curious at this point.

  12. Will, as Gregory Erway states above, the database wasn’t being updated regularly at the time. Robert Day Mruczek publicly announced the “Double Donkey Kong” category in the Fall of 2003. Steve Weibe was notified of this by phone, email, and public forum postings. Walter Day repeated this to Weibe on the Twin Galaxies forums in 2004.

    Twin Galaxies has made it very clear that they believe Weibe made his 2003 score on a non-standard board. They made it equally clear that Weibe was not the Donkey Kong record holder based on that score. Claiming that he actually did have the score just because their database guy wasn’t making updates is disingenuous to say the least…

    I remain confident in my reading comprehension. The links are above. You can read them. You can continue to ignore them.

  13. I can’t find what you reference. Gregory Erway says that they did not open any new tracks at this time, meaning that they didn’t create the DDR category until later in 2006.

    But you’ll also remember that all of this fell during a time when the website did not allow additions of new tracks. This was during the initial time that Brien was “unavailable”. You were falling desperatly behind in score entries and don’t believe you had the capacity to open the new category at that time.

    If Robert was “falling desperately behind” in making the updates then clearly they were maintaining the database at this time. Just not fast enough. What they weren’t able to do was to create the new DDR category. This could be the reason why Steve had the record for the full three years; namely that they meant to change it and for technical reasons were delayed or sidetracked. (Greg certainly implies that he thinks it should have been reclassified before.)

    As Robert says above, Walter Day

    WD – “And, in November, 2004, it was publicly stated that Steve’s score would be re-categorized due to the presumption that he played on a “Double-Donkey-Kong” board. However, Twin Galaxies continued to evaluate that decision, but that decision was never put into effect.”

    These are Walter’s own words which seem to support my own recollection about the re-classification of the scores — that they were announced but never enacted.

    So yeah. Score in the official database. Change never enacted.

  14. Kind of like saying if your speedometer is broken, then you can’t really be speeding…

    Look, I can see where this is going. You seem deeply certain about all of this, Will, and I’m not anywhere near as certain about it as you are. So either you know a lot more than everyone else involved, or you’re just totally certain without actually knowing why.

    If you feel confident about calling Steve Weibe, his family, his friends, and the crew of this film all liars, then you go right ahead. If your world is that black-and-white, I’m not going to be able to make you see shades of gray.

  15. I f feel confident about calling Steve weibe, his family, his friends and the crew of this film LIARS. But I also want to call Walter Day the biggest LIAR of them all. There was alot of collusion between Walter and the film producers to make things out worse then they should of been. Walter consulted his tM think tank and they recommended he supports this film. He orchestrated alot of manipulation to get the playrs to comply. But there is a much bigger lie that both him and bill mitchell foisted on us all that is going to make roy look like a boy scout and steve a saint. stay tuned for my doc, “the perfect fraudman, the donkey con and other arcade legends.

    dwayne

  16. Hey! came across this article having watched King of Kong last night and really enjoyed it. I don’t want to sound naive but is it not possible that Steve Weibe, Billy Mitchell, Walter Day etc were all fully aware of the documentary and basically ‘in on it’ .
    The film was in my mind made to promote awareness of Classic gaming and competitive gaming, and also Twin Galaxies, the film has to be watchable by as many and as varied people as possible, and so requires a dramatic story (beginning, middle & end) rather than being a a collection of ‘geeks’ rambling about chi sets and klll screens!
    I have to say Robert T Mruczek comes across as pretty much the most likable and genuinely passionate of the ‘gamers’ in the film, i just dont understand how this has ended up with him retiring from a job he was clearly both proud and capable of doing???

  17. After watching the film a couple of times, I thought Robert came out as the most legit and honest person involved (even with the edits) in the whole process. I am curious as to why he was the one going around the internet forums defending the others who obviously did not come off as such?

  18. Dwayne, Dusty, Scribbler: are you all alts of Robert?

    Robert came across as a very creepy individual with a lack of any kind of ethical standards and would have done anything to have his perfect little retro kingdom intact without the inclusion of new comers.

    As characters, I loved Billys arrogant behaviour, I liked Steves battler image, and I liked Walters down to earthness. Robert came accross as a mentally impaired slimeball.

    Roy does not look like a boyscout, he comes accross as a childish man, who lives outside of reality who spends his life chasing an unrecognised high score whilst trying to bring down a man he sees as satan.

    The reason Robert is no longer around, is because he is not capable.

  19. ruseriousdusty — if that is your real name — it sounds like you have several axes to grind. Perhaps you have some personal connection to these people you are insulting? Or perhaps you a baselessly speculating about people you do not know at all.

    In either case, not a helpful contribution.

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